From New International, Vol.12 No.1, January 1946, pp.30-31.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.
On December 11, 1944, Labor Action published an open letter of information which was addressed “To the Editorial Boards of The Socialist Appeal (London), The Militant (New York) and Labor Action (New York).” We, the AK of the IKD (the Committee Abroad of the International Communists of Germany) wanted to make public through this letter that the IKD could not possibly be identified with a certain “German group in France” whose actions had been related in a letter from the European secretariat of the Fourth International. The main paragraph of our letter of information read as follows:
We are not in a position to lay claim to the aforesaid “German group” as part of the German section of the Fourth International. To be sure, the IKD (International Communists of Germany) was the only German organization that belonged to the Fourth International, in France as well as in Belgium, Holland, England, Norway, etc. However, as far as we are able to do so, we should like to avoid the impression that we (the IKD) succeeded, after the catastrophe in France, in leaving behind a group that “published a printed paper.” To judge from the name of the paper , it is most likely a few Austrian comrades who are involved, who belonged neither to the IKD nor to the Fourth.  We have no reason, therefore, to lay any claim to them today, and must wait for further information to confirm or refute our supposition.
In addition to the above statement of fact, we asked all comrades (anyone) to help us gather information about the fate of those of our friends who remained in France. That was all.
The Militant, although it published the letter of the European secretariat, had no room for our essential information. The same is true of the Fourth International, which now (July, 1945) enters the faction fight with a Protest against our letter of information. The Protest comes from those well-known European comrades who once before supplied the FI with a polemical powder-keg (see The Higher School of Polemics). We shall not do them the honor here to investigate their indignation in much detail. It is only too well known in the SWP that there was no other German organization that belonged to the Fourth International, outside of the IKD. And in as much as the Protest admits that “German militants have forgotten or have been unable to register with the so-called IKD leadership before being murdered by the Gestapo,” everything is in order. We only repeat then: We left no group in France that would have been able to put out a printed newspaper. In all modesty, we of the IKD take credit for many sacrifices and casualties in France, but for no heroic deeds. The credit is due to those who had “forgotten” or else were “not in a position” to join the IKD. So why all the noise?
The SWP is at constant variance with us and intends to fish in the beclouded puddle of factional maneuvers. With the help of the European comrades, it wants to establish a counterbalance to the inconvenient IKD. For this reason the SWP is spreading slander, gossip and dirt with this implication: The IKD is not the “real” IKD. There is also an opposition (namely, those “European comrades” who don’t belong to the IKD) which should really be considered as the “real” IKD. In their turn, the European comrades (they have long been waiting for their turn to come) who are old-timers as far as mud-dragging is concerned, write:
“It is obvious that this so-called leadership of the IKD and yourself (by this meaning Labor Action), having both abandoned fundamental points (?) of the Bolshevik-Leninist program (?), are only recognizing each other in order to fight against the program (?) of the Fourth International and the organizations struggling for it.”
Hurray, dear friends; you have done well in copying this from E.R. Frank and other honorable members of the SWP! You are really “recognizing each other” and as identical twins you wear identical clothes. We wish you pood results and some more “fundamental points.” But alas, the poor readers of the FI will have to wait some more centuries for your “proofs.”
We would have wasted no words at the time about the whole affair if it had been a question of formality or even of discipline. Just as little was it a matter of those cheap “principles” sold by the SWP (a penny apiece). On the contrary, we were here in deliberate opposition to those practices of the SWP, which have nothing to do with politics.  There were concrete political circumstances that induced us to send our letter of information.
Beyond a doubt the majority of the Fourth International is made up of ultra-leftist sectarians, that is, passive theorists who spend their time printing self-contradictory statements. In one case, though, they seem to have carried their ultra-leftist heroism so far as to lead to simple adventurism, and that was in the case of the “German group” discussed above. The German Trotskyists in France (not to be confused with the IKD) have published a newspaper under the name of Arbeiter und Soldat (Worker and Soldier). Aside from the French organs, the rest of the Fourth Internationalist press (Militant, FI, Socialist Appeal) also published enthusiastic reports about this German paper. With special diligence this was prominently put forth:
“It was in connection with the activity round this paper that thirty German soldiers were murdered by the Gestapo. The leader of this group, Comrade Wintley, was murdered by the Gestapo.”
That sounds serious at first, and at this point we want to put the question of Comrade Wintley and the German soldiers (as individuals) out of the way. In other words, the good will, the courage, the idealism, the devotion and the self-sacrifice of all those who took part cannot in the least be doubted. They died as victims of fascism. Let us honor their memory and their personal valor.
But, on the other hand, we have been, are and remain convinced that in Germany, France, etc., it is not the coming “proletarian revolution,” but rather serious political work and revolutionary preparation that was then and is now the immediate task. For this reason we are fighting against this kind of intellectual, political and physical juggling with revolution, which not only doesn’t advance our cause, but which is also ruining the Fourth International. According to present reports, for instance, the number of casualties in the French organization is much higher compared to that of other French parties. For us this fact becomes a serious political question and is not necessarily anything of which to be proud. If we are mistaken, please enlighten us, but we conjecture that the high number of casualties is the result of the inability of the French comrades to protect themselves through the existing mass movement (resistance) ; the inability to “lose” themselves in it, and with its help to carry on work, etc. Instead, they depended on inadequate, illegal methods, on political isolation, and were unnecessarily endangered for the sake of “radical” aims. The bitter truth is in the fact that the French organization (as the whole of the Fourth International) did not want to have anything to do with the national resistance movement and that they condemned the slogan of “national insurrection” as being “vulgar and deceptive.” It happens, though, that this vulgar and deceptive slogan expresses the whole immediate necessity of the masses, who therefore left the FI alone. Result – heroic sacrifices and nothing else.
Therefore, when we learned that Arbeiter und Soldat had so many casualties, we wanted to be careful and distinguish ourselves from them politically. We would have been grateful if the “European comrades” had informed us whether the publishers of Arbeiter und Soldat were really German comrades or whether they were members of a certain Austrian group, which is known to us (and we emphasize) as being adventurous and ultra-left. We had said: “We must wait for further information to confirm or refute our supposition.” But instead of further information we are flooded by a river of dirt and indignation in the form of a Protest. However, no cause is served by that and this political question still remains unanswered:
What attitude should be taken toward the Arbeiter und Soldat, which in May, ’44 (in France), calls on the German worker to establish a workers’ state by overthrowing the capitalists? What should one say when this paper prints this headline on its front page:
“As of May 1st, 1944, the Road to the Revolution!”
In our opinion, this sort of thing should not be encouraged (as is done by The Militant, FI and Socialist Appeal) but one should rather have a critical attitude and say: Just because Comrade Wintley and the German soldiers meant well does not change the fact that they were on the wrong road. Only when the European Executive Committee (which worked together with the German group and followed the same ultra-left politics) and the Fourth International free themselves from this grotesque “Course Toward the Revolution” and the eternal setting up of a workers’ state – only then shall the danger of adventurism be banned. Only when the Fourth relearns completely, begins to synchronize practical methods with concrete political tasks shall the thirty-one casualties in connection with Arbeiter und Soldat have any political meaning. At times it is much “easier” to die for a great ideal than to be able to live for the same ideal; that is, to realize it through the use of correct politics.
All this is temporary conjecture and is aimed at the representation in the “official” press of the Fourth. Outside of this, though, the whole is not yet explained. Several versions exist and we should like to come back to the case as soon as the correct version is ascertained. Again we ask our friends (and enemies) to help us obtain more facts, reports and other material concerning the case. Beyond this, we wish and are striving for the reorganization of all known German groups (which has now again became possible). But despite this we shall never by-pass for the sake of a factional advantage, a political question in one case which we would otherwise criticize in another (SWP).
For the AK of the IKD
1. Arbeiter und Soldat (Worker and Soldier).
2. The Austrian group of whom we are thinking is described correctly in a report from a French comrade as being “ultra-left” and anti-Trotskyist.
3. Here are two examples: The English Workers International League (despite our vote) had to wait for years to be recognized because, supposedly they had infringed upon the discipline ordered from America. This was only a matter of alleged disciplinary infraction, as the political development of the League was proved correct, while the IS was incorrect: the League showed a sound political and organizational development, while the “official” English section remained a tiny and politically dead sect. But formal, bureaucratic and political viewpoints (matters of prestige) triumphed. The League remained “unofficial” until the SWP (unfortunately with the excellent assistance of Comrade D. Logan), after extensive maneuvers, succeeded in imposing its bureaucratic will. Ever since, the habits of the SWP are not held in high regard by the English comrades. They lack only the deeper insight that the miserable “organizational methods” of the SWP are simply the Ersatz for politics. On the other hand, one day the Italian group was attacked by an editorial in The Militant, because they had “forgotten” to express the SWP position on the Russian question. The Italians were given a flat ultimatum: either commit yourself in no uncertain terms to the “defense of the SU” or ... the Fourth International has no room for you. When we via IS came out against this overbearing editorial, we did so among other reasons, with the reference that the “unconditional defense of the SU” is neither a principle nor a “fundamental point in the program.” According to Trotsky, it is possible to be against the “defense of the Soviet Union” and still be a member of the Fourth International. But the Italian comrades did not even come out against this proposition. They “forgot” (if you like) and were busy with their own political problems. The IS gave us their answer through E.R. Frank: “I don’t care for what the Italian comrades are doing. I ask them for principles.” Napoleon has spoken, but it doesn’t concern him whether or how his soldiers are fighting. He is a second Othello. There arose a “terrible suspicion” in him. Then with a drawn dagger beneath his cloak, waking as Othello over Desdemona, he asked the Italian comrades with a voice from the grave. “Have you already said your prayers for the SU tonight?” As a result of which the Italian revolution was victorious and all because of the “principled leadership” in New York. In any case one can easily draw a picture. Judging from these examples, of the righteous hypocrisy of the SWP and the “European comrades.” Whole sections of the International are maltreated, without a single political reason to show for it. Then they “protest” (basing themselves in a revolutionary-sentimental appeal on the “fight” of the comrades in France, whom they had previously abused in England and Italy) against information which was presented in a positive manner and which presented neither an ultimatum nor conditions, nor dealt with “principles” or discipline.”
Last updated on 28.9.2005